My four year-old daughter has been struggling with anxiety and OCD-like behavior issues for over a year now. Screaming, yelling, uncontrollable crying and tantrums caused by the smallest thing have worn me down and even driven me to my own tears some days.
Six months ago, we started working with a great children’s therapist (Dr. W) whom I hoped would be a huge source of relief for both of us. I was willing to try anything. Understand that I already felt like a parenting failure for this child and any ego that I might have had about my skills had been completely stripped away. I was willing to do anything or say anything to get this to stop. I’d make sticker charts until my eyes are too crossed to see if that’s what it took. Rewards, picture graphs, puzzles, stickers, marbles, check marks . . . whatever system she told me to put in place I was ALL IN. I needed the sanity back in my house.
Now, it’s a little more challenging because Princess K is with her dad every other weekend (with a bonus weekend thrown in most months). Those six days a month can really undo a lot if you aren’t coming from the exact same place to manage the child’s behavior. Which we weren’t. So I was spending Mondays just re-teaching her everything that we had learned the following Friday in therapy, and then starting Tuesday morning fresh. It was a vicious cycle, but nothing gets better overnight. I was in it for the long-haul, and was determined to see it through.
A few weeks ago, Dr. W told me that she was running out of ideas. We weren’t really getting anywhere and she was exhausting everything she knew in order to reach Princess K. Basically, it was time to explore other options. The last thing I want to do is medicate my daughter – and the therapist fully supports my decision. I’d like to try every single option under the sun, wacky sounding or not, and use that only as a last resort. I was afraid that we had gotten to that point (or were rapidly approaching it). It’s been determined that while part of the issues were that of a normal, overly-willfull, four year-old girl, the remainder was something that my daughter didn’t seem to be able to control. That frightens me for her future, and I want to see if I can stop this now before it becomes a long term problem for her.
While Dr. W. would be looking for alternate therapy options, she suggested that I eliminate dyes from Princess K’s diet and see if that changed anything. In addition to implementing that, I remembered a good friend who was a Naturopath. Linda was trained and certified in this high-tech microscope and blood slide analysis and was working with a local herbalist*. I decided that I would take Princess K to her and see what her blood would tell us.
After a finger prick (that Princess K was not too thrilled with), this is part of what popped up on the slide:
Those are her blood cells. They are just sitting there in clumps, instead of moving around like they are supposed to be. The places where there are arrows? That’s a yeast build-up in her blood-stream that’s clogging up everything. This is just a screen shot of one tiny spot on the slide. The whole slide looked like this – actually worse. There was only one tiny spot where her cells were moving around and it was very slowly. However, there were these pockets of yeast everywhere.
Their observation – my child seemed to be yeast overloaded which could cause all of the behavior issues that I had been talking about, including her inability to control it. The solution? To clear her system out of what was in it already and to remove sugar from her diet.
WHAT?! How do you get a FOUR YEAR OLD not to eat anything with sugar in it? As I stammered through the list of “healthy” snacks and foods that I fed her, they both kept shaking their head and saying, “nope – full of sugar”.
Needless to say I was in shock. I took pride in feeding my children a balanced diet. We didn’t have junk food or crappy snacks in the house. How did this happen? Everything was all natural, organic, some gluten-free. We ate lots of fruit and granola, the girls didn’t really drink juice. I just didn’t understand!
As soon as I got home, I started to investigate. Here was a typical breakfast for Princess K:
Amazing Grass w/4 ounces of apple juice and water
Banana Cheerios w/Almond Milk
Seems healthy enough right? Well the daily recommended sugar intake for a four year-old is 15-20 grams. This breakfast put Princess K at 40 GRAMS before she left the house in the morning!
Every granola bar, fruit mash-up, and bag of trail mix that I thought was good for her was FILLED WITH SUGAR. WHAT HAD I BEEN DOING TO MY POOR CHILD?!
After a spat of guilt-tears, I quickly went in to action. A large bag of items went together for the food pantry (sugar or not, I’m not throwing away food), and I set about making a list of what we needed. Fruit was still ok, but the types of fruit needed to be modified. And instead of having something that was raspberry FLAVORED (even with real raspberries), Princess K needed to be eating ACTUAL raspberries. Chemical sugar replacements (things that say “Sugar Free” that are really sweetened with Splenda, etc.) were a no-no too.
We also needed to add more fresh veggies and proteins in to the mix. With her dad 100% on board (as well as her pre-school), we’ve totally changed the way we eat in the last week. So now her breakfast looks like this:
Amazing Grass vitamin powder (mixed with water)
1/3 serving of plain oatmeal with berries (natural berry sugar and that’s it)
Scrambled eggs with flax meal and shredded cheese (zero sugar)
Turkey Sausage (zero sugar)
Princess K is getting used to it and is even starting to ask questions about what has sugar and what doesn’t. We are also a week in to her system cleansing, which she has embraced pretty well. There is still sugar in her diet – I’m not willing to cut her off cold turkey because I know that sugar is an important component to brain development. My goal is to get her back in the recommended daily intake range of 15-20 grams.
I urge you to take a few minutes the next time you are at the grocery store and read content labels. You might be surprised at just how much sugar your kids – and YOU – are having in a day!
I’ll be sharing more ideas for switching some of our favorite meals and snacks to a lower-sugar option in the weeks to come, and I’d love it if you would share yours with me. I need all the help I can get!
* There is more to this science than I described in this blog post. My friend did not diagnose or attempt to treat my daughter, only interpret what her blood slides showed and then the herbalist made recommendations of natural, holistic products that I could use. I encourage you to do your own research and determine what is best for you and your family.